Maggie's answer was to throw her arms round Tom's neck and hug and him and hold her cheek against his without speaking, while he slowly unwound some of the line, saying, after a pause,

`Wasn't I a good brother, now, to buy you a line all to yourself? You know, I needn't have bought it, if hadn't liked.'

`Yes, very, very good... I do love you, Tom.'

Tom had put the line back in his pocket, and was looking at the hooks one by one, before he spoke again.

`And the fellows fought me, because I wouldn't give in about the toffee.'

`O dear, I wish they wouldn't fight at your school, Tom. Didn't it hurt you?'

`Hurt me? no,' said Tom, putting up the hooks again, taking out a large pocket-knife, and slowly opening the largest blade, which he looked at meditatively as he rubbed his finger along it. Then he added,

`I gave Spouncer a black eye, I know - that's what he got by wanting to leather me: I wasn't going to go halves because anybody leathered me.'

`O how brave you are, Tom - I think you're like Samson. If there came a lion roaring at me, I think you'd fight him - wouldn't you, Tom?'

`How can a lion come roaring at you, you silly thing? There's no lions only in the shows.'

`No: but if we were in the lion countries, I mean, in Africa, where it's very hot - the lions eat people there. I can show it you in the book where I read it.'

`Well, I should get a gun and shoot him.'

`But if you hadn't got a gun - we might have gone out, you know, not thinking - just as we go fishing - and then a great lion might run towards us roaring, and we couldn't get away from him. What should you do, Tom?'

Tom paused, and at last turned away contemptuously, saying, `But the lion isn't coming. What's the use of talking?'

`But I like to fancy how it would be,' said Maggie, following him. `Just think what you would do, Tom.'

`O don't bother, Maggie! you're such a silly. I shall go and see my rabbits.'

Maggie's heart began to flutter with fear. She dared not tell the sad truth at once, but she walked after Tom in trembling silence as he went out, thinking how she could tell him the news so as to soften at once his sorrow and his anger. For Maggie dreaded Tom's anger of all things: it was quite a different anger from her own.

`Tom,' she said, timidly, when they were out of doors, `how much money did you give for your rabbits?'

`Two half-crowns and a sixpence,' said Tom, promptly.

`I think I've got a great deal more than that in my steel purse upstairs. I'll ask mother to give it you.'

`What for?' said Tom. `I don't want your money, you silly thing. I've got a great deal more money than you, because I'm a boy. I always have half-sovereigns and sovereigns for my Christmas boxes, because I shall be a man, and you only have five-shilling pieces, because you're only a girl.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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